Christopher Tin




Christopher Tin is a two-time Grammy-winning composer of concert and media music. Time Magazine calls his music 'rousing' and 'anthemic', while The Guardian calls it 'joyful' and 'an intelligent meeting of melody and theme'. His music has been performed and premiered in many of the world's most prestigious venues: Lincoln Center, Kennedy Center, Hollywood Bowl, the United Nations, and Carnegie Hall, where he had an entire concert devoted to his music. He has also been performed by ensembles diverse as the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Philharmonia Orchestra, Welsh National Opera Orchestra, Metropole Orkest, and US Navy Band.

His song "Baba Yetu", originally written for the video game Civilization IV, is a modern choral standard, and the first piece of music written for a video game ever to win a Grammy Award. His debut album, the multi-lingual song cycle Calling All Dawns, won him a second Grammy in 2011 for Best Classical Crossover Album, and his follow-up release The Drop That Contained the Sea debuted at #1 on Billboard's classical charts, and premiered to a sold-out audience at Carnegie Hall's Stern Auditorium. His third album To Shiver the Sky also debuted at #1, and was funded by a record-breaking Kickstarter campaign that raised $221,415, smashing all previous classical music crowdfunding records.

Tin is signed to an exclusive record deal with Universal under their legendary Decca label, and published by Concord and Boosey & Hawkes. He works out of his own custom-built studio in Santa Monica, CA.

Photo Credit: Gabriel Majou




What does music mean to you personally?

This is an interesting question, and the answer that I'm going to give is probably very different from what most people would expect me to say. Music to me is a highly cerebral pursuit, and almost completely unemotional. The way I listen to music is extremely deconstructive; when I listen to music, I analyze it, take it apart, try to understand how it works. I can't really listen to music and not tear it apart mentally… it's just a reflex. And that isn't to say that I don't take great joy in listening to music… I absolutely love it! Every piece is a code that's waiting to be deciphered, or a treasure map that's waiting to be explored. I derive great intellectual pleasure from music. That said, however, the end goal for me is always to write a piece that makes a person like me--that is, a clinical and analytical listener of music--set aside all intellectual analysis and simply sit back and listen. When I hear music that makes me shut off my brain and instead just simply sit back and take it all in, I know that I'm listening to good music.

Do you agree that music is all about fantasy?

I don't really think that music is all about fantasy, no. Music can be many things to many different people. Certainly, I love music that's evocative and that transports you away, but I can also appreciate abstract music that's simply an exercise in sonic organization. I can also appreciate music that's simply designed to make you want to stand up and dance.

If you were not a professional musician, what would you have been?

I actually was interested in architecture for some time, but ultimately, I found that my true talents were in music. I do think that I was always destined to do something creative, though.

The classical music audience is getting old, are you worried about the future?

I'm not concerned about the future of classical music. Yes, the audiences are getting old, but at the same time new people are constantly discovering classical music (often when they're older). And there are many ways that people discover it; through soundtracks, for example. I've had people tell me that after discovering my music in a video game, for example, they became classical music fans.

What do you envision the role of music to be in the 21st century? Do you see that there is a transformation of this role?

Sadly I think that music in the 21st-century is being relegated to an experience that's a part of another multi-media experience (film, games) and is less and less an artform meant to be experienced on its own terms. People don't sit around listening to music anymore; it's always meant to be in the background while you're doing something else. That's a little sad to me.

Do you think that the musician today needs to be more creative? What is the role of creativity in the musical process for you?

I think modern musicians should be a little more resourceful, for sure. Creativity is the essentially element of what we do; especially those of us who are composers. However, I think the internet rewrote all the rules about how one can have a career as a musician, and today's musicians really need to be more adaptable and flexible to carve out a career.

Do you think we as musicians can do something to attract the younger generation to music concerts? How would you do this?

I think music education is a big component of getting younger people to the concert hall. I think that the more knowledgeable young people are with concepts like music theory, the more they'll seek out art forms that are sophisticated musically. That means classical and jazz. I also think, though, that getting them excited about music from films and video games is also a useful tool. For many youths, the first time they'll hear an orchestra is on a soundtrack. That's something that should be harnessed.

Tell us about your creative process. What is your favorite piece (written by you) and how did you start working on it?

My creative process largely starts off improvisatory. I like to throw a lot of ideas at the page, just to see what resonates with me. Once I have an idea that I like, then I develop it, both at the piano, and also just humming it throughout the day. Most of my pieces are like that, including my best piece "Baba Yetu"--the breakthrough idea happened when I was out walking my dog!

Can you give some advice for young people who want to discover classical music for themselves?

For young people wanting to discover classical music, I would encourage them just to start with whatever it is they're excited about, and then start swimming around. If they heard Claire de Lune and suddenly love Debussy, then start with Debussy then move on to Ravel, some Russians, etc.

Do you think about the audience when composing?

I do think about the audience all the time when composing! For me, grabbing a hold of the attention of my audience, and never relinquishing it, is one of the most important aspects of composing music. I seek to write pieces that entrance the listener, and want to make them hear more. I'm often surprised at the cavalier attitude that a lot of contemporary classical composers have about not caring whether the audience listens. To me, it's short sighted.

What projects are coming up? Do you experiment in your projects?

I'm currently starting work on my next major choral album, entitled 'The Lost Birds'. It's a requiem of sorts to the bird species that have been driven to extinction by humans. It's being funded by a Kickstarter campaign, and you can hear a sample of the music here: